Health food stores and natural food stores will be permitted to stay open during the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, under strict new controls on retail businesses announced today by the Government.
Under the measures all ‘non essential’ retail and public premises must close, including restaurants, cafés, pubs, bars, hair and beauty salons.
‘Health shops’ are on a list of official exceptions, which also includes supermarkets, ‘other food shops’ and pharmacies. Certain types of food delivery services run by cafés and restaurants can also continue.
Confirmation from Number 10
Graham Keen, executive director, of the Health Food Manufacturers Association – who wrote to the Public Health Minister last week, warning it was ‘essential’ that heath stores were allowed to remain open – received confirmation from an official at Number 10 overnight that ‘health shops are a listed exception’.
The HFMA also received confirmation this morning that manufacturers and distribution companies supplying health stores can also continue to operate, having been designated ‘key sector’ businesses.
Keen told Natural Products Global: “As you can imagine, at the HFMA we have been working hard to ensure that health food stores, and the chain that supplies them, are to remain open throughout the lockdown. So I’m obviously particularly pleased that this has been achieved. This is clear recognition of the critical role our industry, and all of the companies within it that the HFMA represents, plays in helping maintain the nation’s good health in this very challenging situation.”
We must grab this opportunity with both hands to show that health food stores are a vital part of local communities
The National Association of Health Stores (NAHS) was also involved in urgent lobbying activity last week, urging its members to contact their MPs to implore them to make the case for keeping health stores open, warning that there was ‘a real risk that health food stores could be included in planned business closures’.
In a statement today, the NAHS said: “We would like to thank all retailers who took the time to lobby their MPs to define health food stores as ‘an essential service’ and we must grab this opportunity with both hands to show that health food stores are a vital part of local communities and will pull out all the stops to assist their customers during an emergency.”
Distancing and queue control
Health stores, along with other retailers permitted to stay open, will from today be required to implement strict social distancing measure in their premises. These include ensuring a distance of two meters between customers and shop assistants, letting people enter the shop only in small groups to ensure that spaces are not crowded, and implementing queue control measures outside of shops.